Cane Hill Park unveils sundial artwork to honour its history

Residents of Cane Hill Park have been enjoying a new public artwork, which pays homage to the history of Cane Hill Hospital.

Holly Graham at the unveiling of her new artwork at Cane Hill

Croydon-based Artist Holly Graham has created a sundial artwork entitled While The Piled Cumuli Sail Galleon-Like Above – a line taken from poetry published in the Cane Hill Chronicle, the in-house magazine from the hospital, written by and for the patients.

The sundial endeavours to honour the history of the clock tower that stood pride of place at the former hospital, and sits in the centre of the Cane Hill Park development. The artwork was delivered as part of the Section 106 agreement between the developers Barratt and David Wilson Homes and the council, and is said to represents the diverse history of Coulsdon.

Cane Hill had a somewhat notorious history as a Victorian and Edwardian era mental asylum, something which was touched on in a recent episode of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are featuring David Walliams, who visited the site.

To create the artwork, Graham worked with local fabricators setWorks and Peter Ransom, of  the British Sundial Society and the chair of the Council for the Mathematical Association. They held a workshop at Coulsdon College with A-level Maths and Engineering students, engaging in the sundial making process.

“I felt that the form of a sundial took in a more expansive view of time, taking into account a history of the site that stretched back even before the presence of the hospital,” Graham said.

“I was interested in the idea of local time that sundials channel, acknowledging ‘noon’ not as 12pm, but the moment when the sun is at its highest point in the sky above that specific place.

David Walliams in the chapel at Cane Hill during the filming of Who Do You Think You Are

“Many people have fed into this project and aided the development of the work. In the research stages of the project, I had conversations with local residents, students at Coulsdon College and artists at Bethlem Gallery over a series of workshops, and also studied the history of the site via the Museum of Croydon’s archive collections.

“Thank you to all of those people who have enabled this work to come into being: from one-off conversations, to extensive consultation, from trusting the vision, to hands-on hole-digging and foundation-laying on site. I am pleased to unveil the final result at Cane Hill Park.”

A small number of attendees were present for the unveiling, including Graham, representatives of the Cane Hill Park Residents’ Association, as well as staff from Barratt Southern Counties and David Wilson Kent.

Richard Jackson, a committee member of the residents’ association, called the sundial “exciting”, and said: “Holly Graham has produced a work of art that used historical documents left by the hospital residents, which includes a useful sundial.

“The artwork provides some historical relevance to our surroundings and also acknowledges the work by Coulsdon residents who lived and worked at the hospital.”

Barratt was gifted the long-abandoned Cane Hill Hospital site by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. Set in more than 3,000 sqm of retail space, with green space and health facilities, close to Coulsdon town centre, the first of its 675 new homes were opened in 2016, and all have now been sold.

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